Storytelling is part of Humanness
On transcending adversity through writing
Desperation is the engine of creativity, I tell myself several times a day.
Because there’s no way anyone would live like this by design, only by default, locked in flight or flight mode, running on too much adrenaline, too much cortisol, and far too little rest.
When you must consciously make a daily, sometimes hourly choice between life and death and the best way to stop your mind from killing you is to keep it busy writing, a lot of other things fall by the wayside as the rabbit hole deepens.
Monomaniacal devotion to life happens word by word, death disruption the thread that runs through my copy even though the darkness won’t let go.
It’s still hell, but with better words.
Chronic depression compounded by financial hardship is not easy to extricate yourself from.
Valiantly, the heart keeps attempting to deflect anxiety with every new piece but when it loses its tempo under what was supposed to be a relaxing shower, you know you’ve reached the point of no return.
My 5-year depressive stasis consisted of being so incapacitated I could no longer string two words together, a journalist’s worst nightmare. But the moment I recovered my writing voice was the moment I understood I could no longer take it for granted.
Unless I cherished it, it might leave me again so I love it, hard.
For many of us, writing is survival in action, as defiant as it is obsessive.
We make it stick by any means necessary, with ongoing effort, experimentation, and the determination not to fall silent ever again. Necessity demands we turn fear into fuel.
There’s no other way but to use language as alchemy, to transcend that which hinders, be it fear, illness, loneliness, poverty, stigma, shame, discrimination… There are as many reasons to write as there are writers, all reasons are equally valid, none is more noble than any other.
Those reasons generally cohere into a collective desire to communicate despite adversity, limitations, or circumstances.
Give a thinking human pen and paper, time, and a quiet spot and they’ll become editorial alchemists.
Storytelling is how we make sense of the world: we tell ourselves the stories we need to survive, be it through philosophy, religion, or our own writing.
Whatever our genre.
I’ve found that what life lacks in mental and physical comforts it tends to make up for in creative opportunities. Innovation isn’t something we do because it sounds cool or it makes us look good. Innovation is what we do to prevent interruption, it is always a form of survival, be that of the fittest.
Humans only come to defy expectations, comfort, tradition, and convention when they become a threat to our survival, not before.
Pushing yourself beyond anything you’ve ever done is the only way to keep going.
No matter how much you might love writing, even that love needs room to recharge and grow, shelter, sustenance, and light and there’s nothing remotely inspirational in desperation, not even humans’ innate ability to spin it into myriad adventures.
Adversity is endlessly generous with material, that’s the trade-off when you struggle all the time: Creativity becomes a way of life. Otherwise this process of transitioning toward a place of greater ease would be too terrifying, too painful, too raw, too unsightly for the page. We don’t want anyone to catch our fear, we really don’t.
So we strive for redemption through words instead to offer reassurance that it gets better.
One story at a time.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.